Growing up, many adults now in their 50s believed that by the time their children were off to college and careers, the next stage of life would be the golden years. Remember the wealth management “Freedom 55” slogan from the 80s? Today, however, most middle-aged adults are a long way from retiring even at 65, and often 50-somethings are sandwiched between the demands of work, children, and caregiving for aging parents.
According to a recent Washington Post report, more than half of Americans over the age of 50 are caregivers to someone 65 or older. The University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging has found that most caregiving involves helping with healthcare, and may also include home cleaning, grocery shopping, meal preparation, yard work, banking and bill paying. Nearly all (94 percent) of caregivers do not receive payment for their assistance which often carries on for several years.
With scarce resources available to support seniors aging in place, and a shortage of affordable seniors housing, elderly parents, friends and neighbours are increasingly relying on informal caregiving to help them manage household tasks and chronic health conditions. With an aging population, and greater longevity, it is projected that by 2034 older adults will outnumber children and by 2040, 1 in 5 Americans will be aged 65 or older.
Being a family caregiver can be overwhelming, and often isolating. It’s important for caregivers to make time for general self-care to help avoid health problems themselves, as well as stress, anxiety, depression or burnout. Of the caregivers polled, 65 percent reported at least one challenge including emotional or physical fatigue, balancing work or other responsibilities, lack of time for self-care or balancing time with family and friends.
Making time for regular health appointments, getting together with friends, exercising, and enjoying hobbies will help ensure caregivers are able to continue providing support for elders in their life. Providing care to an elderly loved one has many positive aspects as well as challenges. Caregivers become more aware of their own future care needs, feel valued and have a sense of purpose, may focus more on their own health, and often grow closer to their family or friends by providing care.
To learn more about where to find support, events and classes, and caregiving resources, visit the Family Caregiver Alliance website.
Add Your Voice
Join the Discussion